A strong UK commitment to the life sciences sector: a package of support and a refresh of clinical trials

A series of recently announced measures include a life sciences growth package, a review on pro-innovation changes to regulation and an in-depth review of clinical trials. Together these offer real opportunities to develop and test innovative products in the UK.

Life sciences growth package

A £650 million war-chest was announced in May, to include a raft of new initiatives:

  • £121 million to improve commercial clinical trials to bring new medicines to patients faster,
  • up to £48 million of new money for scientific innovation to prepare for any future health emergencies,
  • £154 million from UK Research and Innovation to increase the capacity of UK Biobank. This would involve a new facility at Manchester Science Park, a new Hub to help SMEs collaborate with industry and academia and better IT to accommodate multi-disciplinary data.
  • up to £250 million to incentivise pension schemes to invest in our most promising science and tech firms, through the Long-Term Investment for Technology and Science (LIFTS) initiative.

The existing Academic Health Science Network will be relaunched as Health Innovation Networks, to aid collaboration between the NHS, charities, community organisations, academia and industry.

Planning rules will be improved to permit increased lab space development, and route improvements to the East West Rail link between Oxford and Cambridge are proposed to tie in the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

While welcoming the commitments ABPI Chief Executive, Richard Torbett, noted the need both to press ahead with regulatory reform and better management of the clinical trial process, as well as addressing the Voluntary Scheme that controls pharma companies’ profitability on the UK market.

Lord O’Shaughnessy's review into commercial clinical trials

Carrying out clinical trials offers a range of benefits including early access for patients to innovative medicines, investment in research activity and enhancement of a location as a desirable destination for investment. A wide-ranging review of the UK landscape for commercial clinical trials has made a series of recommendations to remove roadblocks and provide support.

Recent research by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) noted a drop off in clinical trial activity in the UK. Tackling this requires both funding and effort to identify and address problems, and target support. Following this important review by Lord James O’Shaughnessy, a number of measures have been identified as priorities.  The Government’s five headline commitments are:

  • to substantially reduce the time taken for approval of commercial clinical trials, with the goal of reaching a 60-day turnaround time for all approvals
  • to deliver a comprehensive and mandatory national approach to contracting
  • to provide ‘real-time’ data on commercial clinical activity in the UK
  • to establish a common approach to contacting patients about research
  • to establish clinical trial acceleration networks (CTANs)

The Government also accepts in principle the foundational actions set out by the review. Delivery of these initiatives will not be easy, as they will require substantial “rewiring” of the current system. A more detailed implementation update is expected in autumn 2023.

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